This week, BBC program ‘Fast Track’ raised concerns over the UK’s lack of tourists, and suggests why we’re falling behind our European neighbours.
Highlighting China as a key source of overseas visitors, last August, David Cameron expressed his disappointment that, whilst England was China’s 22nd favourite country to visit, Germany was close to breaking into their top ten, “why can’t we do that?” he asked.
Today, Germany receives six times the number of Chinese tourists than the UK does, and France welcomes even more. So why, when English is the second language of the Chinese, and they express a clear interest in our culture and landmarks, aren’t they visiting the UK?
Fast Track suggests that the reason is visas and stringent immigration laws. Chinese nationals are required to fill in their UK visa applications in English – no mean feat, when their native Mandarin is communicated in a series of intricate symbols. With forms filled in, a long process of fingerprinting and eye scanning can ensue, deterring many applicants.
And it’s not just the Chinese that are being put off. With over 100 countries requiring visas to visit the UK, it’s estimated by the ETOA that one in four applicants give up before attempting to process their visas, complaining of the long, arduous and expensive application system.
But why do we need more tourists? Our tourism industry is already worth over $1050bn, and creates around two million jobs in the UK. Sounds impressive, but being easily trumped by Germany, France and the USA, there’s work to be done.
Tourism is big business, and is an industry our economy relies on heavily. Visit Britain estimates that tourists spend more than £90bn a year in the UK and that one in twelve UK jobs directly or indirectly depend on tourism to some extent.
Patricia Yeates, of Visit Britain, expressed her frustration that Britain’s tourism is being driven away from this country and towards our rivals. She suggests that we need to be attracting more overseas tourists than ever, particularly with this year’s Royal Wedding hype and the lead up to the 2012 Olympics; ‘This is our moment to showcase Britain’, she urges.